The Sacred Graveyards

1Chron 1-3 Easter was a glorious reminder that Christ rose from the dead. His resurrection gives us hope that one day we will hear the trumpet and rise to meet Him in the clouds. For now, we are left with a list of unpronounceable names to remember that only Christ has been raised from the dead. Men will still die and join many in the sacred graveyards leaving only a gravestone and memories.

Why did the Chronicler record so many unpronounceable names? Why did he register the names of Israel’s enemies? Why are there so few women’s names? So what are we to glean from this sacred graveyard?

The Chronicler wants us to know that life is short, eternity is long, but God has revealed His plan for our redemption.  Woven in this chain of people, we find that God sent His son born of a woman to redeem those who were under the law. Some bowed the knee and whispered God save me for there is no other name under heaven whereby we are saved. We are saved not from perishable seed but imperishable. No matter how great our first birth privilege or heritage is, it does not secure our salvation for by no works are we justified, but by His grace alone.

One day all of us will stand before the Lamb of God when the books are opened. To some, they will hear well done, thou good and faithful servant; but to others, they will hear–depart from me I never knew you.

This is a sobering thought. Consider your decision for Christ today.

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Are You Living in Death Valley?

valleyofdrybones-ezek 37a

Ezekiel 37 God’s love is beyond our ability to comprehend but the evidence is before us and is clearly seen in creation. But, often our eyes are focused on the “valley of dry bones,” our Death Valley. We say “I know God can do anything, “but in the next breath we say “I fail to see how God can work in this situation.” Martha stood by the tomb of Lazarus and thought those very words.

Martha wanted Jesus to do something because, like her, we are more comfortable “doing” than “believing.”  Perhaps that is why we keep our idols of busyness, pleasure, and materialism.  Like the pioneers of old, who wandered into Death Valley and had to be rescued, we find ourselves wandering, wondering how we too will be rescued.  Martha stood before a closed tomb;  Ezekiel stood in a valley of dead bones. Both were left speechless when God asked: can these bones live?  But, God in his mercy watched and heard God say: I am about to infuse breath into you and you will live!

Jesus, from eternity past, determined to be our rescuer from our death valley. He saw, He came and reminds us:  I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies, and the one who lives and believes in me will never die.

Do you believe this?

Photo: Millennialpastor.net

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Out of the Nowhere into the Fray

Do you present Christ only for it to fall on deaf ears? Then this story of Elijah is for you! Please take time to read the whole story.

1Kings 17 to 19 out of nowhere2a

1Kings 17 – 19 How often have you wondered when God was going to work and when He did, you can’t fathom how it all happened? Such is the case of Elijah the Tishbite in Gilead. Why did God call him to a nation of whom he was not related? God’s ways are not our ways, thankfully. God’s patience had run out for King Ahab and Queen Jezebel and He would take an ordinary man to prove that Baal was false and God was real. And so the contest began over the sacrifices.

Baal earned a zero in answering and God earned a resounding 100%.

You would think after seeing God’s power unleashed the king and queen would relent and believe but just as today, they did not. Instead, Jezebel decided to end Elijah’s life once and for all. God revealed His power and Baal’s lack of power. God now will have the last word for these workers of iniquity.

The contest is over and where do we find Elijah but in the desert whining in his depression. How like us! Truly Prov 29:25 is truer than we want to admit. We fear men more than we fear God. We have a mountaintop experience, fail to see others turn to Jesus and we fall into the valley of despond. Many love Easter for its resurrection story but on Easter Monday they fall back into their unbelieving ways. And like Elijah, we retreat to the cave where we can hide. I told the Easter story but it fell on deaf ears! Oh woe is me, I am a failure! Can you relate? It has happened more than once to me and probably it has happened to you as well.  That is why Elijah’s story is so very relevant to our lives and why we need to read it again and again. We need to see the compassionate heart of God when we are facing the deadly d’s of discouragement, depression, dismay and more. God calls out to Elijah to remind him he is not alone in this work!

So, friend, when you feel you are swimming upstream against unbelief, read this story again and again. You may not be an Elijah but you are called to present Jesus! Get up and get back to work. If we don’t present Christ they will enter a Christ-less eternity and you will hear that their blood is on your hands just like God told Ezekiel—but that’s another story for another time. 

There are still people who need to hear about the power of the Resurrection.

Get up and tell the gospel story to all whether they believe or not!

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The Power of the Resurrection

resurrection-21Cor 15 The Power of the Resurrection

The Resurrection is the key to the life of our Savior who lived, died, and rose again. Without it, there is no hope, no future and no reason to believe. It is because of His death that he became a life-giving spirit that is given to all who believe. It is because of that death, burial and resurrection that one day we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in the moment, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. This mortality will put on immortality for the Master Tailor is in the business of sewing us into the beautiful tapestry of the image of Jesus Christ. We are being conformed to His image and it is because of this we can sing with the choirs of heaven. And it is because of that truth Paul could say to the Corinthians who were concerned:

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!  So then, dear brothers and sisters, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Jesus is no longer “on” the cross. He has become victorious “over” the cross and He is our anchor for our souls. A

 

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Recognizing the Risen Christ

luke 24 recognizing gods provision2As we read this last chapter in Luke we wonder why he did not focus on just the beauty of the resurrection. Dr. Luke is drawing us into these real life scenes that we might relate as to why there are those today who also cannot understand the resurrection and see how God is at work amongst us.  We are brought front and center that we might learn from these encounters as a means to share the gospel message.

First are the women who needed an angel to walk them back spiritually to the words of Jesus: “Remember how he told you?”  The two on the road to Emmaus needed the presence of the risen Christ to jog their memory of the passages he had taught them. And just as with the women, we too need our physical and spiritual eyes opened that we might recognize the risen Christ. Is this not the work of the Holy Spirit?  We remember John’s words: For God so loved and we begin to put the puzzle pieces together.

It took an angel to open the understanding of the women. It took the “stranger” to begin questioning the Emmaus walkers as to what they already knew. But, it was not until the angel asked the key question and it was not until Jesus broke the bread at the table of fellowship that their eyes were opened and they recognized and put 2 and 2 together.

So what is the lesson?  God loves us and He will provide what we need to have our eyes opened and our understanding illuminated. Where are you? God will provide what we need to see and understand the risen Christ.

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Are We Looking?

ImageMark opened his gospel with these words “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” and ended with “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here.” Mark is saying to his readers, you began searching for the Messiah and now I tell you that this one who said that He was the very Son of God has proven it through his resurrection. The empty tomb is open for all to enter and to see with their earthly humanity that Jesus the Nazarene was and is and ever will be the very Son of God.

The women will be the first to be given the honor to know this news. The temple guards who fled know as well but will be bribed to keep silent. The chief priests hear this news but will add to their guilt heaping lies and deceit upon the charge of murder. The disciples will be the last to know for they are sequestered behind closed doors shaking in fear. It is the women alone who will boldly walk the quiet dim streets of Jerusalem wondering “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” It is the women who will enter the quiet garden and instead of a tomb darkened by death, see and hear from a heavenly messenger commissioned just for this purpose to tell any who would enter: “He is not here, He has risen just as He said.” Peter later would write that angels long to catch a glimpse of what God had not revealed until this very moment. They had waited through time unknown to us for such an event as this and as at the birth of Christ when the angelic choir sang Glory to God in the Highest we wonder if at the resurrection they added the words “Hallelujah.”

Beloved, Christ is not dead, He is risen just as He said. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Do you know this risen Christ as your own personal Savior?

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The Resurrected Christ…A View from Matthew 28

ImageA journey with the Apostle Matthew has taken us on a circuitous route, or sinuous if you like. It has been fraught with danger, and filled with expectation of what lay beyond the next bend. We have journeyed in and out of Israel, found those who are faithful and those who are not. It is as we say journey of highs and lows but with the Messiah always in charge. Today in Matthew 28 will be no different.  Today we will see that what men contrived for evil God will turn to fulfill His ultimate plan that all nations would hear, all men would decide for or against, all believers would have the promise of “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Matthew tells us that it is in that the semi-darkness women have left their beds to walk to a cemetery to “look” at a tomb. Matthew leaves us wondering, yet wants us to focus in on the miracle unfolding. He points to the earthquakes, both as Jesus uttered “It is finished,” to the timing of the resurrection. Just as God dispelled darkness and ushered in light so too here God dispels the darkness with a stroke of light along with an earthquake and the moving of a tombstone as if it were a pebble. The messengers of the Lord who announced the coming Messiah come now to announce His resurrection. He is no longer wrapped in the cloak of death but is risen “just as he said.”  Matthew Henry wrote: “On the first day of the first week God commanded the light to shine out of darkness. On this day did He who is the Light of the world, shine out of the darkness of the grave.”  

In this same time frame there are guards who see the miraculous of the tomb opening, an angel whose appearance was like lightning and faint as dead men. Upon awakening from this faint, they rush to the side of the religious leaders to share the news only to be given large sums of hush money with the promise of “we will protect you.” Instead of the truth just say the disciples came while you slept and stole the body. It reeks with the breaking of yet another commandment: “do not bear false witness.”  The religious leaders had asked Jesus for a sign from heaven, yet when given, they add insult to injury and deny themselves and others the right to eternity. Truly Jesus was right when he said: Mat 23:13 “But woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You keep locking people out of the kingdom of heaven! For you neither enter nor permit those trying to enter to go in. The plainest evidence will not affect the hardest hearts of men without the illumination of the Spirit of the living God.

Thus the guards’ fear along with the religious leaders denial and total rejection of God’s sign will be to encapsulate them like the grave shroud that Jesus shed. It will encase their minds and physical being and will remain with them until they face eternity where they will hear God’s voice utter: “I never knew you.”

 In contrast the fear that the women face is quickly discarded with a stroke of light as it illuminates not just an angelic being but an empty grave. Their fear turns to joy when they hear two times “do not be afraid,” first from the angel and then from the lips of our risen Lord. Their immediate fear is banished by God’s messenger and His Beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. That is what happens to us when we accept the Risen Savior as the Resurrected Christ, our fear turns to joy and unlike the guards who cowered in fear we shout and praise God: “Hallelujah.”

As you ponder all of this closing segment of Matthew, may you also search your heart. There is a principle we would gather here: When we come with pure hearts, we are given great and mighty blessings. When our hearts are defiled those blessings are withheld not only now but for all eternity.

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